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Monday, August 20, 2012

The Rollins Act is Old


          The Jimmy Rollins act has grown old.

          Last week everyone in Philadelphia seemed shocked that the Phillies veteran shortstop didn’t run out a ground ball. That’s akin to being shocked at seeing another sunrise.

          Rollins added to his performance in the Wednesday loss by not bothering to even attempt break-up a double-play. He literally strolled into the infield to avoid the throw to first.

          Of course, J-Roll wasn’t done. He later made it clear that he had no apology for his action, utilizing every athlete’s favorite outlet for proving their stupidity. Rollins responded to a tweet from a fan saying, “Yo, @JimmyRollins11 , try runnin out the play man. Youngsters are watching you,” with “@1_krazy_puck well u make sure u tell them what to do.” Not surprisingly, the tweet is no longer available on Rollins’ timeline, but he didn’t delete it fast enough to avoid the media picking up on it.

          Ironically, just one week earlier Rollins was being lauded for taking the first pitch he saw deep for a home run. The Phillies broadcast couldn’t tell fans enough about how it was Rollins’ 40th career leadoff homer. The stat was heard on all the highlight shows.

          No one seemed interested in the fact that a leadoff hitter shouldn’t be swinging at the first pitch he sees. The idea of letting the rest of the lineup and himself see some pitches never came up. His fans certainly didn’t want to hear how often he swings at the first pitch and pops up to the shortstop.

          I couldn’t quite find stats on Rollins popping up the first pitch of an at bat, but I found some closely related figures. Inquirer Phillies beat reporter Matt Gelb reported on August 10th that Rollins had 31 infield pop-ups this season alone – 10 less than the next guy on the list, Dan Uggla.

          The previous day BoopStats reported that the leadoff homer put him “fifth all-time, almost halfway to the record held by his boyhood baseball idol Rickey Henderson.” Does anyone doubt that Rollins isn’t aware of that fact? Didn’t think so.

          The phillly.com page went on to report that Rollins “.302 [on-base average] is by far the worst among players with 33 or more leadoff homers. And we know Jimmy can reach base more often, because he does so in other situations (he has a career .345 OBA when he is not leading off an inning, for instance . . .).”

          But not to worry Phillies fans. Jimmy got a stern talking to by Charlie Manuel after Wednesday’s game. And, boy, Jimmy sure got the message. He singled in his second at-bat the next day, stole second and then third base, and scored. It was exactly what a team would want out of its leadoff hitter.

          Never mind that he was even playing in the game. Manuel has learned that benching Rollins after he makes it obvious he just doesn’t feel like hustling on a given day only leads to the shortstop pouting. And he knows that fact because he’s tried it on other occasions when Rollins has done the same type of thing. It’s practically an annual occurrence with the guy.

          Manuel also knows that dropping him down in the lineup will bring the same result, even though Rollins clearly prefers to bat like a 5-hole hitter and doesn’t seem to comprehend the role of a leadoff man. Batting fifth doesn’t quite have the cachet, especially for a shortstop, that leading off brings, and that would never do in Jimmy’s world.

          By the way, after manufacturing a run, Rollins was 0-for the rest of the day, and he’s 1 for 19 since. Going into tonight he’s batting .239 on the season. And those two stolen bases equate to 10% of the bases he’s swiped all season.

          Rollins won his last Gold Glove in 2009. While his fielding percentage (a stat that doesn’t seem to mean much) is fine, the shortstop certainly isn’t showing any type of special range in the field much, if ever, these days.

          Dealing with Rollins’ annual diva display was bad enough when he was an All-Star and the Phillies were winning. It’s especially galling when the guy at second base, Chase Utley, runs out everything despite dealing with knee problems that threaten his career longevity.

          While I expect the Phillies to return to being contenders next year, nobody except maybe Rollins expects him to be named to the midsummer classic ever again. Don’t forget that Rollins was a free agent last season, and only returned to the Phillies after no other team would give him the number of years he was looking for in a contract. The Phillies seemed afraid not to sign Rollins knowing that Ryan Howard and possibly Utley, half of their World Series championship infield, were going to miss significant time this season.

          Now, they’re stuck with him and his attitude. And his pop-ups.

          The act is old, and so is the shortstop.

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